Have you ever stopped to think about how many cuts of steak you can find at a local grocery store or butcher shop? The truth is that the options seem endless, so it can be overwhelming trying to decide which cut to purchase. From ground beef to roasts, meat from a steer or cow can come from nearly any part of the animal. So, when you’re looking for a tasty, tender cut, it helps to have a bit of insight. Today, we’ll discuss the 4 and most tender cuts of steak, as well as everything you need to know to choose the most tender cut of beef.
What are the Best Cuts of Steak?
When it comes to the most tender cut of steak, there are four that stand out among the crowd, and each of them comes from the same area of the cow – the loin. There are eight primal cuts of beef, but the loin is made up of two sub-primal cuts, the tenderloin, which is the smaller of the two, and the strip loin, which runs along the spine.
The loin area that begins just behind the rib section is the most tender part of the cow and is generally also the most expensive. You’ll find that the best cuts cost more because premium cuts only comprise a small percentage in relation to the entire steer. We won’t keep you in suspense any longer; if you’re looking for the best type of steak, these four options are your best bet:
As the name suggests, the ribeye, or Delmonico, comes from the center, or “eye,” of a cow’s rib area. This cut of steak is among the top because it’s juicy and tender, making it seem as if the steak melts in your mouth. The meat usually has lots of marbling, which is the fat located between the muscle fibers. Though the taste of a ribeye steak tends to be on the milder side, it does feature a unique buttery flavor.
It’s also worth noting that there’s a second version of the ribeye steak known as a cowboy steak or tomahawk steak, which is a large, bone-in variety. These steaks contain more meat than you initially think, and these slabs usually have large amounts of marbling that helps with the tenderness and buttery taste.
Feel free to leave the steak on a bit longer with no consequences when cooking a ribeye, because unlike other cuts of beef that aren’t as tender, ribeyes contain lots of fat.
New York strip steaks come from a part of the short loin, so it’s boneless and is cut from the largest part of this loin. This steak tends to have a good amount of marbling and larger pieces of fat located around the edges. Most commonly, you find New York strip steaks cut into a rectangular shape with tapered edges. The neat shape of this cut makes for an excellent presentation on the plate, but strip steaks can also be shaved and used for Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. Most people like strip steaks because they have a more intense beef flavor than other steaks such as ribeye. The only downside is that New York strip steaks can leave something to be desired with tenderness.
The other variation of this beef cut is the Kansas City strip steak, which varies just slightly from the New York version. The main difference is that the Kansas City strip steak has a thin strip of fat on the tail and a small piece of bone left intact; other than that, they both have a similar texture and taste.
Most would agree that the best way to cook the New York strip steak is using high heat with grilling, broiling, or pan-searing methods.
The tenderloin is one of the costliest cuts of meat on the market, and once it’s been trimmed of its fat, silver skin, and gristle, you’re left with a lean piece of beef that’s compact. Another name you may hear for the tenderloin is the filet minion, which comes from the center of this cut. Since it’s a very lean cut of beef, the flavor is very mild, and some even describe it as buttery. However, you can make up for the lack of flavor during the preparation process when done right.
When cooking a piece of beef tenderloin, avoid overcooking because there’s not much fat, leading to a dry steak. For this reason, the best way to cook this cut of beef is to sear it on the outside and finish cooking the inside in the oven on a low heat setting. Don’t forget to pair it with your favorite glass of wine to add the finishing touches to a delicious meal!
T-bone steaks are among the most recognizable thanks to the distinctive bone that’s clearly shaped like the letter ‘T.’ This cut offers a nice sized piece of the tenderloin and a section of the top loin, or strip steak. The T-bone steak is much like the Porterhouse, but the T-bone is thinner on one side. Reports have shown that the T-bone is more commonly consumed in America, while British Commonwealths prefer the Porterhouse.
Regardless, T-bone steaks offer the best of both worlds, as you get the taste of the strip steak and tenderness of the tenderloin. These are best prepared on the grill, so gather your tools from the mancave (or womancave) and fire it up!
In the end, it’s hard to narrow down the best cut of beef, as the four we just discussed each offer their own benefits. So, it’s up to you to decide what you’re looking for in a steak and choose accordingly!
Further Reading: ‘Portion Sizes Around the World‘
Original infographic via thekitchenguy.net in 2016, content updated March 2022.